Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

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Tim Murphy is a senior reporter at Mother Jones. Email him with tips and insights at tmurphy@motherjones.com.

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Ru Paul.

The South has risen again—against Ru Paul.

The freakout began, as many such freakouts do, over a museum display. On Saturday, the new Appomattox, Virginia branch of the Museum of Confederate History had its grand opening, with a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner and the ceremonial flag-raising of the 14 states in the Confederacy. It all seemed innocuous enough. But as the blog Southern Heritage Alerts explained, there was trouble. Just a few days earlier, a "flagger" (Lost Cause jargon for someone who publicly displays the Confederate flag) went on a "recon" mission to the museum a few days before its official grand opening and spotted a life-size image of VH1 star Ru Paul dressed in a bedazzled Confederate flag dress. (Here's a photo.)

Immediately, Lost Causers sprang into action. "This is Waite Rawls flipping the bird to all Southerners," read one characteristic blog comment, referring to the museum's director. "You must get in 'these peoples' face and spit and spit again!," read another. "Kid gloves ain't gonna work with this trash!!!! They spit on YOU and YOUR heritage everyday!!!!" Another commenter wondered aloud, "How could this have been allowed to happen even for a soft opening to me it is both hateful and disrespectful not alone what were small children to make of this." The Sons of Confederate Veterans, one of the nation's leading Neo-Confederate groups, put out a statement blasting the display.

Finally, the Washington Times, the paper of record for this kind of thing, got to the bottom of the story after talking to Rawls himself:

When reached, Mr. Rawls acknowledged that the Ru Paul likeness was up "for about six hours, and then taken down for good." He said it was someone's idea for an eye-catching example of the way a flag can be improperly used, but early "soft opening" visitors wasted no time in making their strong objections known, and the display was removed. He laughingly said it might be used for lining chicken coops in the future.

Fortunately it was no longer in evidence on Wednesday when some sixty students, parents and teachers from the Appomattox County School system became some of the first invited guests to enjoy the new facility.

So there you have it. The sons and daughters of the Sons of Confederate Veterans have been saved from the prospect of seeing the Confederate flag desecrate Ru Paul.

Mitt Romney gave $10,000 to the National Organization for Marriage in 2008.

We've known that Mitt Romney helped bankroll California's anti-gay-marriage campaign in 2008. But on Friday, Huffington Post's Sam Stein presented new details—specifically that Romney's $10,000 donation (did he lose a bet?) to National Organization for Marriage, the nation's leading stop-gay-marriage outfit, came via his network of state PACs that we reported on last July:

Records filed by Romney's Free and Strong America PAC with the Federal Election Commission did not include details of that $10,000 donation. Nor did NOM's public 990 form. In fact, record of the payment was only uncovered Friday when the pro-gay rights Human Rights Campaign was sent a private IRS filing from NOM via a whistleblower. The Human Rights Campaign shared the filing with The Huffington Post.

Asked for comment, an aide to Romney said that the donation was made through the Alabama chapter of the Free and Strong America PAC. State records confirm this. However, the 990 NOM filed lists the donation as having come from PO Box 79226 in Belmont, Massachusetts.

Belmont, of course, is where Romney maintains his nominal address, in the basement of his son's house.

The NOM donation is particularly dicey given another recent development. On Tuesday, Buzzfeed reported on an internal NOM document detailing the group's aim to "drive a wedge between gays and blacks" in order to knock down gay marriage efforts. Those documents date back to 2008. Put another way, Romney donated $10,000 to an effort geared at "fanning the hostility" between gays and black voters.

Here's the full document, via HRC: 

NOMSched2008PDF

On Wednesday, Public Policy Polling came out with a new survey of the Nebraska GOP primary race. That's not all that important—Rick Santorum will probably win the state, win slightly more delegates than Mitt Romney, and still not win the nomination. Not very many people live in Nebraska.

But there was one interesting element to the Democratic-leaning polling firm's Nebraska report: In the state's second congressional district, Obama trails Romney by just one point in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup:

Courtesy of Public Policy PollingCourtesy of Public Policy PollingNebraska, which allocates its electoral votes by congressional district rather than winner-take-all, went overwhelmingly to John McCain in 2008, but Obama was able to pad his landslide tally with a narrow win in Omaha.

The odds of Omaha delivering a decisive electoral vote to Obama this time around are pretty small, but via the good folks at 270towin.com, you can at least game a scenario—say, if Obama repeats John Kerry's 2004 map, then adds Virginia, Colorado, and New Mexico to the mix while losing New Hampshire. And in that case, with Obamaha providing the winning margin, you might actually see some serious introspection from Republicans and Democrats alike on why we still rely on something as unwieldy and undemocratic as the electoral college in the first place.

The Karnes County (Texas) ICE detention center, as imagined by Rep. Lamar Smith.

On Wednesday, as most of official Washington was fixing its gaze squarely on the Supreme Court, the House Committee on the Judiciary convened a hearing on another issue: the supposedly posh conditions at the Department of Homeland Security's immigrant detention centers. The hearing, dubbed "Holiday on ICE" by chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), focused on the idea that Obama administration rules intended to prevent sexual abuse and inhumane conditions at Immigrations and Customs Enforcement facilities made detention too fancy. "War on Women," meet "War on Immigrant Women."

In 2008, the Washington Post published an in-depth investigation of inhumane conditions at ICE detention centers. As Bob Libal at Texas Prison Bid'ness points out, ICE was forced to cancel its contract with a detention center in Texas' Willacy County after it was "rocked by allegations of sexual assaults, immigrant smuggling, spoiled food, and protests." Those conditions, detailed in a 2011 Frontline report, were exacerbated by Obama administration policies exempting immigration detention centers from the Prison Rape Elimination Act. As far as accommodations go, Willacy was more Hostel than Holiday Inn.

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